YELM, Wash. — Authorities are investigating a suspicious device and arson at a Jehovah Witnesses Kingdom Hall in Yelm Wednesday morning.
The incident was the fifth attack on Jehovah Witnesses halls in Thurston County.
The Thurston County sheriff said deputies and detectives were called to the hall at 15012 Vail Rd. SE at 7:30 a.m. by elders who found smoldering fire logs stacked against an outside wall.
They put out the fire, which had only caused a small amount of damage. They later discovered a suspicious device that appeared to be a bomb on the west side of the building.
When officers arrived, it was determined that the Washington State Patrol bomb squad should be called in to inspect the device. Though it looked like a real bomb, it turned out to be fake, according to the sheriff's office.
Task force members from Olympia police, the ATF and FBI were at the scene. The task force was formed after attacks at the Yelm hall and two other halls Thurston County were determined to be linked.
Two arsons happened on March 19 -- one at a Tumwater Kingdom Hall and the second at the Cain Road Kingdom Hall in Olympia. Both fires were started on exterior walls in a similar manner.
A third incident took place on May 15 when someone fired about 35 rifle rounds into the Kingdom Hall in Yelm, the same hall where the device was found Wednesday. Damage was estimated to be more than $10,000.
on Cain Road on July 3. Security footage from the July arson was released by investigators, along with still photos of a man described as a person of interest, as well as a vehicle of interest, in the case - believed to be a 2017 Jeep Renegade or similar SUV.
The four-minute surveillance video showed a masked man in a hooded sweatshirt setting a fire against the building. At the end, a ball of fire erupts before the man flees.
ATF is offering a reward of up to $25,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of the individual or individuals responsible.
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